Tag Archives: Migration

Juan’s Story – The high cost of cheap prices

We came upon this taxi driver who started telling us of how, in order to build his family a house, he went to Texas to cut rock for housing facades, using a legal visa provided by his employer. Did this for three years, six days a week, 12 hours a day minimum.

Hope you like this video, which I did last week in Mexico.

Let me know what you think, either here on in the Youtube comment box. Please share it if you like it.

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Filed under Border, Business, Global Economy, Mexico, Migrants

Unaccompanied minors: How about some perspective

The Dept of Homeland Security today announced figures for youths apprehended alone at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The headline: The numbers of detained unaccompanied children dropped in half, to 5,500 in July.20140508_192715

Also fascinating in the DHS report: The monthly apprehension numbers show a huge leap in March and April, up to 7,000+ and reaching 10,000+ in each of May and June.

So most of those 57,000 kids that were reported detained since October actually came since March.

The suddenness of that surge reflected in the DHS figures adds credence to the idea that this was the result of rumors – spread by a Honduran television reporter, according a US official I spoke with – that the time to leave was now or never given pending legal changes in the U.S. So people began bolting.

But it’s remarkable that the situation on the ground – both harrowing violence and civic disintegration in Central America, dependence on jobs in the U.S., and the huge numbers of immigrants here — is such that rumors would spark a migration fever like that.

I find the whole furor to be surreal in another way. The surge in apprehended minors is really a sign of how well the immigration system is working. Certainly, total apprehensions, which are barometers of the the size of the flow of people trying to cross, are well down these days.

Years ago, when total apprehensions were always over a million annually, thousands of kids — most of them teenagers between 13 and 17 – came to the United States illegally and many of them were alone. But they were lost in the hundreds of thousands of adults who were also crossing.

But with those numbers down (well below 500,000 a year), the kids stand out more. It’s possible too that coyotes are seeing these kids as their last, or maybe a far more important, revenue stream and spreading rumors too. Desperate measures, perhaps reflecting a serious crisis among our friends in the human-smuggling industry.

Not to say that it’s a good thing that thousands of kids are streaming north, but it helps to keep some perspective.

Here are the DHS apprehension figures since January, 2014:

Unaccompanied children Adults with children
January 3,706 2,286
February 4,846 3,282
March 7,176 5,754
April 7,702 6,511
May 10,579 12,774
June 10,628 16,330
July 5,508 7,410

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Filed under Border, Global Economy, Mexico, Migrants

Faustino Diaz: Trombone master from Oaxaca in L.A.

Faustino Diaz, the Oaxacan trombone master, returns to Los Angeles this weekend for a concert at the Ukrainian Hall, 4315 Melrose Ave., this Sunday at 2 p.m.

Diaz thrilled Mexico last year when he won the International Trombone Competition in South Korea.1511733_908562385837387_4934257276349175473_n

A few days later he visited the Pico-Union District and the music school run by director Estanislao Maqueos, who has used his school to organize Oaxacan youth orchestras.

There, I had the chance to sit down and talk with him about his life, and having to venture out into the world to find his music like a migrant finds a future.

The interview is above and in Spanish.

Check out the concert. Should be good.

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Filed under California, Culture, Mexico, Migrants, Southern California

Barefoot Triqui Indian BB players in town

 

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The barefoot Triqui Indian basketball team, from the mountains of Oaxaca, is in Los Angeles for a couple weeks.

The team of 10 and 11-year-olds from the village of Rio Venado, Oaxaca was welcomed with a brass band and a press conference at Casa Oaxaca in Mid-City.

A full schedule awaits. A tournament next two Saturdays. Visits to UCLA, USC, Disneyland, and the Lakers. As well as meals at several of the many Oaxacan restaurants that have proliferated in Pico-Union and West LA in the last 10 years.

The team formed out of an academy set up three years ago in Rio Venado, with a focus on bringing education to the isolated Triquis in the mountains of Oaxaca.

Since then, the boys, playing barefoot, have become something of international stars. They won a tournament in Argentina. They’ve toured Orlando and played the San Antonio Spurs barefoot in Mexico City, winning 10-4.

IMG_5957The Triquis (Tree-Kees) are considered among the poorest indigenous ethnic groups in Mexico. (Los Angeles has few Triquis, but they form a large part of the Central Valley agricultural labor force.) For years, the Triqui region has seemed stuck “in the 18th Century,” said Sergio Zuniga, the coach. “Their dream before was to finish elementary school and go the U.S.”

The academy formed to change that, with Triqui teachers. It adopted the attitude of making do with what it had available, which in Rio Venado doesn’t include tennis shoes. One thing that was available was basketball, which is a huge sport across the mountains of Oaxaca.

“In Mexico, we don’t teach the culture of competitiveness,” Zuniga said. “What we’re doing with these kids is teaching them competitiveness — that they learn to win and lose.”

Since then, the image of shoeless four-foot Indian basketball players has captured the imagination and sympathy of people across the continent.

The team amounts to a public-relations strategy to call attention to the long-forgotten Triqui region, where average education is four years. The Indian-taught academy spent its first 18 months without any help at all. But as the team garnered attention in the Washington Post and CNN, the Mexican government has supported it, promised to build houses for the players’ parents and pay for the kids’ education, including college.

“The idea for the school wasn’t to place blame [for the Triqui situation], but simply to act,” Zuniga said. “With Indians, we’re forming winners. This has astonished people [across the Americas] — how Indians are changing their history.”

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Filed under Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants, Southern California

MIGRANTS: Mexican migration at net zero

… That’s the conclusion of a Pew Hispanic Center analysis, which may prove to be good news for those immigrants who have been able to remain here. (Here’s the LA Times story.)

The center figures this net zero migration has probably been true since 2007 and is due to a variety of factors: the U.S. recession, increased deportations, threats to immigrants along the border, and others.

In conversations I’ve had with immigrants, many are saying their friends and relatives are not coming north. (Folks I’ve interviewed aren’t returning home, either.) The cost is quite high — both in cash as well as in dangers faced, as drug traffickers and criminals have learned to use immigrants as revenue streams, kidnapping them and charging their families even more than they’ve already paid.

Meanwhile, the potential payoff of a job up here is dramatically lower.

All of which may mean that those who do remain here might look to an improvement in their standard of living, as the greatest competition to a Mexican immigrant, particularly one with few skills, no English and no papers, is another just like himself.

Then there’s this — a story in La Jornada (thanks to Keith Dannemiller for the tip) saying that flows to refuges for migrants in southern Mexico have doubled, especially from places such as Veracruz, Chiapas and Tabasco, due largely to crises in Central American countries.

Interesting times….

 

 

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Filed under Mexico, Migrants

LOS ANGELES: A legend of the raspado

I spent some time yesterday with a legendary street vendor.

Ramiro — don’t know his last name — spent 15 years as a street vendor before moving to an established shop a month ago. He’s from San Andres Yaa in the Sierra Juarez in Oaxaca.

In the neighborhood west of MacArthur Park, he was famous for his raspados — shaved ice, snow cones essentially, though with amazing flavors added, such as mango, coconut, cucumber, various chile powders. (During colder weather, he sold steamed corn. Made it all in his house.)

People would form lines for his raspados and some got his cellphone number so they could find him each day.  But the police have been tougher on street vendors lately, so he rented a shop and is easy to find, in his business at James Woods Boulevard and Westmoreland Avenue.

However, he shows signs of not really having left the street behind. When I visited, he did almost everything — just as I imagine he did on the street — while his wife and two employees stood around and watched the maestro at work.

The world of street vendors in LA is now deep and rich — with must be thousands of people making their living this way: selling sodas, fruit, corn, Popsicles, hot dogs, candy, and more. A robust informal economic ecosystem with direct roots in Mexico and Central America.

Quite controversial, too, as tax-paying, rent-paying merchants see no reason why they should have to compete with others who don’t. The health department, too, has issues with the way a lot of the food is prepared and stored.

 

 

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Filed under Los Angeles